I have my Uncle Pete’s medals-seven of them-pinned to a piece of black felt and kept safely behind the doors of a glass fronted book case. Among these medals are two purple hearts. One awarded to my uncle for wounds he sustained during an air raid on December 12, 1941 at the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines, and the other, awarded for making the ultimate sacrifice on January 9, 1945-killed while aboard the POW “hell ship” Enoura Maru when it was bombed as it sailed for Japan. To say that I am grateful and proud of my uncle and what he did for his country, my country, is putting it mildly.
I have other mementos of Pete too. A few photos, some letters he wrote, and a pint sized sailor uniform he had made in Honolulu as a gift for a younger brother. These few possessions of Pete’s are priceless. Reminders of the uncle I never knew, but still feel connected to.
My father is a veteran. He was in the Navy, and served in Korea. I keep his dog tags in my studio, where I see them every day. They are part of the story of who my dad is that I wouldn’t part with for anything.
It saddens me when I see mementos like these for sale in antique stores or on internet sites, because many times, once these pieces of history are separated from those who know the faces and the stories behind them, those stories about those faces are lost forever.
On this Veteran’s Day, and every day, I am so proud and grateful to our veterans for their service and their sacrifice. But most of all, I remember them. It’s the most fitting tribute I know.